I’ve always found the fascination with 1950’s greaser culture to be a strange caveat of the American underground. What has truly been an interesting development is how in the past few years the punk rock community has taken to the image of the 1950’s era greaser and amplified its rebellious nature. The love for hotrods, loose women and good ol’ fashioned rock and roll might seem suitable for the punk rock lifestyle, but the attention to detail within the fashion certainly seems at odds with the grungier side of punk. Still, styles such as Rockabilly and Hellbilly have certainly created their own home within the world of Punk. Taking the old time rock and roll style and then speeding up the pace while infusing the lyrics with many modern references, these rockers have crafted a definable niche within popular culture. Writer and director D.A. Sebastian is a rock and roll artist who certainly seems to have an infatuation with this particular sect of musicians and artists. His film Rat Rod Rockers! looks to capitalize on this particular attitude while also trying to deliver a relatively deft thriller. The end result is mixed at times, but rarely falls into boredom.
Our story begins with old man Canker’s death. The old man, who bootlegged moonshine for a living, was supposedly wealthy far beyond what any of his neighbors could have ever imagined. When he finally passes away, the local greaser gang known as the Mad Kats decide to do some investigating in order to locate the old man’s missing cash. They run into a real problem however when the Mildue family move in to Canker’s former home. The boss of the gang has demanded that whatever they do to get the money… they have to keep things quiet, because things have already been too disruptive as it is. The Mildue family is in the midst of their own strife and turmoil however, even without this new aggression from the locals. The oldest daughter, who is adopted, has severe issues with her parents. The mother is going stir-crazy moving out to the woods and fears for her children not having a normal life. Then there’s dad, who hasn’t really been the same since he suffered some unfortunate cranial damage. Dad is now attempting to become a writer and never leaves the house any more, which is proving to be a real inconvenience for the Mad Kats.
There are a lot of weak points that one could harp on when discussing Rat Rod Rockers. The acting is obviously not at what one would consider to be a professional level, the visual direction of the film is very bland and there are occasionally dips in character-logic that border on mental illness, but despite the bad qualities it is easy to find a heart and soul in Rat Rod Rockers. The filmmakers hide behind their "cheese", negating a lot of serious critical evaluation, but the movie overall turns out as a mixed bag. The heart, the soul and the campy fun that is to be found here does its best to overshadow some of the lesser qualities of the film but it will ultimately depend on the viewer as to whether or not it pans out. For me personally, I was able to get over the plain visuals and the camp acting so that I could discover an interesting little detour into a subculture that I am not terrible familiar with. A concept that is always personally engaging for me.
The film itself splits into a nearly infinite list of chapters without numbers. Ultimately every scene is bookended with a fade-to-black, followed by a chapter-title in bold white print. The little subtitle that pops up almost always ties into something that happens during the next scene or two, which generally works for the most part. The chapter-titles seem relatively cheap in appearance but are effective, as the subtitles that reference future events keep the audience tuned into what is happening on-screen. When we know what the subtitle is that came previously, we find ourselves searching for its meaning and intently listening to the dialogue in an attempt to keep one step ahead of the movie. Although I have spoke ill of it continually up until this point, some of the cast members do acquit themselves quite well. Cameron Black in the role of lead villain "Jimmy Knight", the head of the Mad Kats, is the most inspired of the cast without question. Taking things far over the top, he brings a great deal of charisma to his role and delivers the sort of zany villain that a movie such as this really needs.
Overall, the project is a bit hit and miss. It has its moments with some funny dialogue here and there, but there are also painful bits of exposition and clumsy storytelling throughout. I think this was a movie made with a lot of love however, and regardless of what you can say about it in a negative light there is enough of this culture represented in order for it to befit at least a small audience. If you want to read more about Rat Rod Rockers or Go-Kustom Films, you can check them out: http://www.go-kustom.com/ratrodrockers.html